Thursday, February 27, 2014

Somewhere Between Life and Death

By Lurlene McDaniel. Published 1990.

Erin and Amy Bennett are only fifteen months apart in age, but they’re quite different. Erin is older, dependable and a dancer, while Amy is always running late and wants to be an actress. Amy has a cute senior boyfriend, Travis, and Erin has a secret crush on him. She’s a little obsessed with him; it’s kind of weird.

The girls have a performance at a recital in which Erin is dancing while Amy gives a dramatic reading, and their friend Shara sings. Erin gets aggravated with Amy for being late to rehearsals, but she always ends up forgiving her.

Despite this, their performance is a success, and there’s a party for everyone afterwards. When they run out of soda, Erin offers to go get it, but Amy begs to let her do it. She’s only had her license a week, and she really wants a chance to drive. Erin lets her. Everyone watches the tape of the performance, and then Travis shows up to pick Amy up, but she’s still not back. They go out looking for her, but can’t find her. They return to the school, and then their mother’s friend shows up, and tells them there’s Amy’s been in an accident.

They rush to the hospital, and Erin finds her parents. Amy is in Neuro-ICU, because she has a traumatic brain injury, and is in a coma.

The family falls into a routine, with someone always with Amy in case she wakes up. Erin even misses school. Travis comes to see Amy once, but he can’t stand to see her that way, so doesn’t come again. Erin gets pretty pissed at him.

Erin meets a girl her age, Beth, in the waiting room. Beth is there because her mother’s kidneys are failing, and they’re waiting for an organ donation.

After a while, the Bennetts decide to try to get back into a regular routine. Erin goes back to school. On her first day, she overhears a girl talking about how she’s going to a dance with Travis. That douche.

Amy had an appearance at a children’s home to perform as a clown scheduled, so Erin decides to go in her place. The teacher who is in charge is overjoyed. Erin puts on the makeup and costume and feels pretty silly. She meets her guy clown counterpart, and they work up a routine. Erin ends up having fun, but she thinks it’s for the best she doesn’t have to see the guy again.

Beth gets good news, in a bittersweet sort of way. There’s a man who’s been declared brain dead at another hospital, and he’s a match for Beth’s mom. So they’re leaving right away. Erin is happy for her, and they say they’ll keep in touch.

But this is a Lurlene book, so there’s majorly bad news coming. One day when Erin arrives at the hospital, she’s told to go to a conference room, where her parents are. They inform her Amy has been declared brain dead, and they’re discussing whether to donate her organs. The entire family has to be in agreement, even Erin. Is that true? I have no idea.

Anyway, Erin is totally against it, and she gets royally pissed. She’s also in denial that Amy is really essentially gone. She thinks they should keep her on life support, because something someday may make her better. The doctor explains that once you’re brain dead, everything starts to fail, and they have a limited time to retrieve the organs. Erin really hates that phrase. Her parents decide to give her some time.

Her friend Shara comes to see her. Shara’s dad delivers babies, and she takes Erin down to the nursery to see the babies, and then to the NICU. They have a long talk about life and death, and about the role of medicine.

That night is the dance, and Erin makes the decision to go wait for Travis to get home. It’s creepy. She pretty much yells at him for dating someone else, and informs him that Amy is brain dead. It’s pretty harsh.

She goes back to the hospital, and talks to Amy. She tells her all about what happened with Travis. She finds in her bag a bunch of papers of Amy’s that her teacher had given her. She reads an essay Amy wrote about being sisters, and it’s very sweet. Then Erin looks into Amy’s eyes, and realizes she really is gone, and it’s time to let her go.

The family says goodbye the next day, and it’s pretty sad. They sign the papers to donate her organs.

They have a small funeral, and Shara sings “Amazing Grace”.  Erin finally feels at peace.

o   Oh my goodness, so much exposition. Just hit me over the head with it, Lurlene. She really is the worst about it.

o   Wow, 1990. Mrs. Bennett smokes a cigarette in the ICU waiting room. Crazy.

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